South Africans are trying to emigrate to New Zealand as refugees

 ·20 Jan 2020

New statistics published by New Zealand Immigration shows how South Africans have been trying to emigrate to the country using refugee status, and failing.

New Zealand resettles 1,000 refugees each year through its Refugee Quota Programme. Since World War II the country has resettled over 35,000 refugees, with the New Zealand government establishing an formal annual quota for the resettlement of refugees in 1987.

In 2019, nine South Africans applied to be part of the programme – bringing the total to 83 who have tried this route since 2010.

All of these applications have failed.

Refugees considered for resettlement under the programme must be recognised as mandated refugees and referred to New Zealand by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), according to prescribed resettlement guidelines.

According to the UNHCR, far from being a source country for refugees, South Africa is a country where refugees from neighbouring countries flee to – particularly from countries like Zimbabwe, Somalia, Ethiopia, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi.

South Africans in New Zealand

While South Africans are not having any success trying to sell themselves as refugees, thousands have successfully made their way to New Zealand as residents and students.

According to New Zealand Immigration’s data, between 2010 and 2019, 13,540 applications for residency were received, 12,463 of which approved were approved.

These applications represent 34,150 people – of which 31,663 were approved for residency.

Over the same period, 17,936 students were granted access to the country on student visas – 2,230 in the last year.

The graph below shows how these numbers have changed over the last decade:

South Africans choose to move to New Zealand for numerous reasons, most notably because it is safe, child-friendly, and has strong job opportunities. The current unemployment rate is 4.3%.

Historically these South Africans have entered the country on residence and work visas, however, the data shows that there has also been an increase in student visa-arrivals in recent years.

A May 2018 report by American think tank, Pew Research, estimated that there are currently 60,000 South African migrants living in New Zealand at the end of 2017 – the fourth highest migrant population outside of South Africa.

According to Pew Research, New Zealand is only surpassed by the United Kingdom (210,000), Australia (190,000),  and the United States (100,000).

Read: More South Africans are looking at Mauritius as a ‘Plan B’ instead of Australia, New Zealand and the UK

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